In the summer of 2017, CapTech partnered with the Atlanta BridgeCommunity Outreach program founded by The Coca-Cola Company to deliver a curriculum to YearUp Greater Atlanta students through the Young Adult Future Entrepreneurs Program. The course, taught by CapTechers from the Atlanta and Richmond offices, offered young adults from low-income communities the opportunity to learn natural language processing development skills focused on solutions using voice activation interfaces based on Amazon Alexa.
Over a 5-week period, running from July through August, CapTechers invested over 600 hours lending their skills helping 20 young adults learn how to develop applications utilizing the cloud and natural language processing. “Almost every integration we do today is done with some cloud component and voice is a cutting-edge technology that’s growing rapidly,” said Jack Cox, a Fellow at CapTech who helped lead the program. “These skills leave an impressive footprint for résumés. It gave these young adults something they could go out and start a business with.”
Initially, the plan was for students to choose one of two different types of applications to build, a sports or musician tracker, but quickly that plan was scrapped once the creativity of these students became so apparent. Soon the students were defining their own path for their Alexa applications. “The ideas were really interesting and were things we would never have thought of,” said Cox. “It was exciting to see their creativity come out and let them run with interesting ideas.”
The voice-controlled apps that the students created for Alexa ranged from an interface with the popular game League of Legends to a Reddit reader. One app was even programed to talk to a Raspberry Pi computer to measure moisture in a user’s garden.
“One of the exciting things for me was when they started to understand tools we were teaching them and recognized the limitless possibilities of things that they could build—they just got so engaged and excited about it,” said Tyler Tillage, a manager in CapTech Atlanta. “It also helped me hone my skills by talking through the technical approach and helping them grasp the techniques. They learned a lot, but we learned a lot too, sitting side by side on a computer for hours and hours."
The program culminated with a final presentation at the Future Entrepreneur Showcase on September 21st at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters in front of a panel of Atlanta executives, innovators, and investors who judged all the different teams’ apps. As a part of the program, all of the students got an Amazon Echo and a laptop. The winning team, who built an app to interface with FitBit health information, received 100-dollar Amazon gift cards to support their newfound Alexa addiction and fund their future development efforts.
“We are honored to partner with one of the world’s most recognizable brands and their non-profit partners to give back to the community of Atlanta, to prepare future leaders, and further the development of this cutting-edge technology,” said CapTech Atlanta Office Lead Boyd Christian.
Fernando Sanchez, a student of the Young Adult Future Entrepreneurs Program said, “The program has been great! I learned great skills and how to implement them with different technologies. Both partnerships have been beneficial and I’m excited to see what me, my teammates, my coworkers, and friends do.”
As a part of their commitment to growing the Atlanta startup ecosystem, the BridgeCommunity engineers startup and corporate relationships, and leads local community initiatives to help raise the technical skill level from high-school onwards. Their commercialization program gives startups world-class enterprise sales, marketing, and negotiation training to better understand corporate innovation needs and collaborate with BridgeCommunity's enterprise members - Capgemini, The Coca-Cola Company, COX Enterprises, InterContinental Hotels Group, Porsche North America, SunTrust Bank, The Weather Company and the Atlanta Hawks. The BridgeCommunity's outreach program develops an inclusive entrepreneurial culture, fostering talent for future technology startups, by drawing on the talents of their startup and corporate members and creating new partnerships to raise awareness of technology, design and business skills among local youth with limited resources. Visit http://bridgecommunity.com/
Year Up's mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Year Up achieves this mission through a high support, high expectation model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, internships and college-level coursework. Its holistic approach focuses on students' professional and personal development to place these young adults on a viable path to economic self-sufficiency. Year Up currently serves more than 3,600 students annually across 24 campuses in Arizona, Baltimore, Bay Area, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Greater Atlanta, Greater Boston, Greater Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, National Capital Region, New York City, Providence, Puget Sound, South Florida and Wilmington. To learn more, visit www.yearup.org, and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter: @YearUp